Every year new books on prophecy, eschatology, and end times are written, and most of them—if not all of them—suffer from the same deficiency: they only focus on the facts and figures of end time predictions. With lots of biblical citations, they spend considerable time debating about the millennium, literal hermeneutics, and how to read Revelation. Of course, these are all important truths to consider, yet, in almost every case, these theology texts fail to convey the beauty, goodness, and truth of biblical eschatology.
In Scripture eschatology is almost always lyrical. In the Prophets, the place where eschatology rises like the Rockies, we do not find naked propositions and bland predictions. Rather, we find naked men foretelling the coming judgment of God (Isaiah 20), baskets full of good and bad fruit (Jeremiah 24), and hills overflowing with wine to describe the future restoration (Amos 9). Indeed, in the Bible eschatology is poetic, not prose. It is meant to captivate hearts, even as it illumines minds.
Yet, except for a few biblical scholars, this feature is almost entirely lost. Daniel is treated like Nostradamus (converted), and Ezekiel’s prophecies are read as an architect manual for some future building project. Yet, this is not first and foremost what the Spirit of Christ was leading these men to see and say. Their authoritative words are given not to a supply us a chronological forecast of future events. Rather, these servants of God are commissioned by God to call us to trust in the covenant Lord who declared the end from the beginning. In other words, eschatology is centered on the last man (1 Corinthians 15:45), not just last things!
Even more, in Scripture the medium employed by the Prophets was poetry, visually stimulating words intended to produce faith and hope. Accordingly, any book on eschatology that turns poetry into prophecy charts suffers the same fate: it gives facts without fire, hope without the Prophet’s heart, predictions without poetry. Indeed, it may communicate much truth, but it is truth denuded of spiritual life and eschatological hope.
Therefore, we who love the Lord and believe every jot and tittle of the Bible, need eschatology that sings. We need more than “textbooks.” We need lyrical eschatology. And thankfully, we find it in places like the stories of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, as well as the music of Andrew Peterson.
For years I have said evangelicals need to put down Left Behind saga and pick up the richer, more biblical, lyrical eschatology of Andrew Peterson. Why? Because the heart of eschatology is not the details surrounding the Rapture. The heart of the eschatology is the resurrection and the hope of a new creation in Christ. This is what Andrew Peterson captures in his music. And thus I have put together the unauthorized Andrew Peterson’s (Songful) Seminar on Eschatology. (Yes, I’m an admitted fanboy).
As an adjunct professor of theology, these songs will now be part of my syllabus on eschatology. If you have never heard them before or considered the way biblical eschatology is lyrical and centered on the new creation (not the timing of the tribulation), I urge you to listen. While I believe every album of Andrew Peterson has eschatological themes, these are the top
twelve songs (now) eighteen songs (including one by Ben Shive), divided between Eschatology Proper (i.e., that which focuses directly on last things—resurrection, the coming of Christ, etc.) and Eschatology Presently Effected (i.e., the effects that the resurrection of Christ currently has on life).
Again, take time to listen to Andrew Peterson’s songs. Maybe you can listen to them as you make space on your eschatology shelf for his books on eschatology (The Wingfeather Saga) or other lyrical eschatology like that of The Gray Havens, another singer-songwriter impelled with the same Narnian vision. In whatever manner you listen, let us all consider how Scripture impels us to do more than fight over for our eschatology; it requires us to sing our eschatology. And for that I’ve found no one more helpful than Andrew Peterson.
There is no particular order to these songs, other than that “After the Last Tear Falls” is my favorite song about eschatology right now. (I’ve also included Ben Shives song on God’s judgment. As a friend of Peterson, his song captures the same vision).
If any of his songs interest you in his albums, you can purchase them here.
After the Last Tear Falls
The Darkness before the Dawn
The Sower’s Song
All Things New
The Far Country
The Havens Grey
This will take a little Lord of the Rings knowledge to decode, but if you know about the Grey Havens (found at the end of the Return of the King), its eschatological meaning will make sense.
Lay Me Down
Rise Up (Ben Shive)
Eschatology Presently Effected
While eschatology is properly defined as the study of last things, biblical eschatology has present tense implications. For instance, when Jesus told his followers to be ready for his return, he illuminated the ethical implications of his resurrection. Oliver O’Donovan has capitalized on this in his magisterial volume Resurrection and Moral Order. But lyrically so has Andrew Peterson, and in the following songs we see words of exhortation related to marriage, childhood, and discipleship.
In truth, while many songs speak about love and life, I find few songs which convey such Christian hope as Peterson’s eschatologically-attuned lyrics.
Dancing in the Minefields
You’ll Find Your Way
Be Kind to Yourself
I Want to Same I’m Sorry
Carry the Fire
Queen of Iowa
This one needs some explanation, as it was written for a woman from Cedar Rapids (Iowa) dying of AIDS. Please listen first, as it explains the way in which hope in Christ’s resurrection reframes the worst kind of suffering.
Mountains on the Ocean Floor
So if you’ve come this far, you must be as much of a fanboy (or fangirl) of Andrew Peterson as I am. Let me know what other songs you’d include to Peterson’s lyrical eschatology seminar.
Soli Deo Gloria, ds